Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Sidewalk

I wrote this piece some time around 1995 or '96. It had been several years since I had seen my son, Benjamin, because his mother had a tendency to move around a lot. This made it pretty impossible for someone with little means, such as myself, to "track them down" as was so often suggested by people who have watched too many soap operas. I was sitting and thinking about all this one day when this came out:

Benjamin used to love to walk on the sidewalk. I would come home from work and give him his first taste of independence. At first I would only let him go a foot or two by himself. But I did let him go. Other parents didn't seem to let their kids go anywhere, ever. I let him go. But only so far. "Hey Beee Jaaay!" I would sing-song after him. He would stop and turn around. Another sing-song of "Come baaack!" would bring him waddling back to me for a big hug.

I often wondered why he never just took off like those other kids I always saw parents chasing after. I guess, because we started giving him some freedom early, he didn't feel the need to "break free" any time he got the chance. One year olds are just like teenagers and the down-trodden masses. If you restrict them too much they are bound to rebel. We decided early-on not to be the kind of parents who said, "No!" to everything.

After a few days I would let him get a step or two further before I called him back. Then a step or two more. After a while he would stop on his own and look back. Sometimes I would call him back. Sometimes I would let him go another few steps. Before long I could trust him to go all the way to the end of the block and still come back when called. I'm sure it was because I let him go at all. He was about a year and a half then. I like to tell myself that today I would trust him with my life.

I sit here and think, "Perhaps I've discovered the secret. And it's so simple." But then I realize (or remember) it's been five years since I've seen him and he could be completely changed. He's fourteen now. I know lots of kids just a little older than he is. They have seen a hell of a lot of life already. Not all of it good. I'd like to think he has seen it too but risen just a little above it all. I want him to be a good person, but not because he isolated himself like I did.

What is he doing? What is he like? Does he think I've abandoned him and hate me for it? Does he understand? He seemed to when he was nine, but that was a long time ago. I can't get the years back. I can't do it again. A scalpel and some sutures have seen to that. Besides, I could never make another one like him. I think that's one of the reasons I totally discount the notion of a vasectomy reversal. I feel as if I made one casting and broke the mold. He may not be perfect but in my mind he's as close as it gets. When I finally see him again will he fall off the pedestal? Probably. Will I be proud of him? I'm sure. Should I try to contact him now? I don't know. Will he eventually contact me? I guess so. Will it be worse or better if I act or wait? I have absolutely no idea. I used to kiss him on the top of his head. I wonder if I will ever be able to do that again.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2011 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

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